S. Fowler Wright
By: Joshua Glenn | Categories: HiLo Heroes, Radium Age SF

British accountant-turned-author SYDNEY FOWLER WRIGHT (1874–1965) self-published two libertarian, anti-Wellsian, yet gripping and rewarding Radium Age science fiction novels — both of which owe a debt to Dante’s allegorical themes and schemes. The Amphibians (1924; reissued, with extra chapters, in 1929 as The World Below) is a superman story set half a million years from now; the Earth’s dominant intelligent species are the giant Dwellers (who are self-destructively devoted to science) and the furry, telepathic Amphibians (who, we discover, are morally superior to twentieth-century men). The time-traveling protagonist is guided by an Amphibian across a Divina Commedia-like landscape of incredible horrors. Deluge (1927), meanwhile, is an eco-catastrophe in which land masses everywhere — except the English midlands — sink under the ocean. The ex-lawyer Martin and the valkyrie-like Claire do battle with working-class types and equally feral animals who threaten their new-found Eden. Deluge became a best-seller and was filmed in Hollywood, which allowed him to become a full-time writer — but from what I’ve managed to read so far, Fowler Wright didn’t produce anything else of lasting interest. Except, I hasten to add, for his Huxley-esque 1932 story collection, The New Gods Lead, in which we find cranky parables about future societies warped by the triumph of technological and cultural progress, in the form of, e.g., birth control, eugenics, mechanical devices, psychotropic chemistry, and the pursuit of comfort generally.


On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: Syd Barrett and Nikolai Marr.

READ MORE about men and women born on the cusp between the Anarcho-Symbolist (1864–73) and Psychonaut (1874–83) Generations.

MORE RADIUM AGE SCI FI ON HILOBROW: HiLoBooks homepage! | What is Radium Age science fiction? | Radium Age Supermen | Radium Age Robots | Radium Age Apocalypses | Radium Age Telepaths | Radium Age Eco-Catastrophes | Radium Age Cover Art (1) | SF’s Best Year Ever: 1912 | Radium Age Science Fiction Poetry | Enter Highbrowism | Bathybius! Primordial ooze in Radium Age sf | War and Peace Games (H.G. Wells’s training manuals for supermen) | J.D. Beresford | Algernon Blackwood | Edgar Rice Burroughs | Karel Čapek | Buster Crabbe | August Derleth | Arthur Conan Doyle | Charlotte Perkins Gilman | Cicely Hamilton | Hermann Hesse | William Hope Hodgson | Aldous Huxley | Inez Haynes Irwin | Alfred Jarry | Jack Kirby (Radium Age sf’s influence on) | Murray Leinster | Gustave Le Rouge | Gaston Leroux | David Lindsay | Jack London | H.P. Lovecraft | A. Merritt | Maureen O’Sullivan | Sax Rohmer | Paul Scheerbart | Upton Sinclair | Clark Ashton Smith | E.E. “Doc” Smith | Olaf Stapledon | John Taine | H.G. Wells | Jack Williamson | Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz | S. Fowler Wright | Philip Gordon Wylie | Yevgeny Zamyatin



Joshua Glenn is an author, publisher, and semiotic analyst. He is co-author (with Mark Kingwell and the cartoonist Seth) of THE IDLER'S GLOSSARY and THE WAGE SLAVE'S GLOSSARY, co-editor of the object-oriented story collections TAKING THINGS SERIOUSLY and (with Rob Walker) SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS, and co-author (with Elizabeth Foy Larsen) of the family activities guide UNBORED and three forthcoming spinoffs, including UNBORED Games. He is editor of HILOBROW and publisher of the Radium Age science fiction imprint HiLoBooks. Also: Glenn manages a secretive online community known as the Hermenautic Circle; he is founding editor of the e-book club Save the Adventure; and he's a frequent co-host of Boing Boing's podcast GWEEK. In the ’00s, Glenn was an editor, columnist, and blogger for the Boston Globe's IDEAS section, he co-founded the international semiotics website SEMIONAUT, and contributed to CABINET, SLATE, and elsewhere. In the ’90s, he published the high-lowbrow zine/journal HERMENAUT, worked as a dotcom and magazine editor, and contributed to THE BAFFLER, FEED, and elsewhere. His publishing company is King Mixer, LLC; and his semiotic analysis consultancy is Semiovox LLC. He lives in Boston with his wife and children.